Soul Asylum to revisit 'Grave Dancers' at First Ave

CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER | Updated 11/20/2012

Dec. 28 gig will mark the album's 20th anniversary and the debut of a new guitarist.

A photo of the new Soul Asylum lineup with new guitarist Justin Sharbono, left, who happens to be a relative of the guy he's replacing.

A fun idea that might offset the absence of the band’s co-founding guitarist, Soul Asylum has announced that its Dec. 28 gig at First Avenue will feature a 20th anniversary performance of the breakthrough album “Grave Dancers Union” in its entirety. As of right now, this is the one and only show where the guys plan to do this.

Issued on Columbia Records in 1992 after the group's career appeared stalled by a fallout with its prior label, “Grave Dancers” went on to sell more than 3 million copies in the states and win a Grammy. It remains the most commercially successful album by a Twin Cities rock act not named Prince. To this day, the “Grave Dancers” singles always make it into Soul Asylum shows anyway, including “Runaway Train,” “Black Gold” and “Somebody to Shove,” as does “Leave Without a Trace” (which is usually the song in which hometown fans raise their drinks to honor the late Karl Mueller at First Ave shows). However, when was the last time you heard “Keep It Up,” “April Fool” or “Get on It?”

Soul Asylum has played a First Ave gig around the holidays most years going back to the ‘80s. This year’s just so happens to be the band’s first hometown gig without Danny Murphy, whose decision to quit the band this fall was amicable but still a shocker to most fans. As frontman Dave Pirner and longtime drummer Michael Bland carry on without him, the new lineup has taken shape with Tommy Stinson’s permanent replacement Winston Roye settling in on bass and the guitar slot being filled by a young new guy named Justin Sharbono -- who, it turns out, is actually related to Murphy. His mom is Danny’s cousin.

In a Facebook posting, Sharbono said that “Black Gold” was the first song he learned on guitar as a kid. Prior to this new familial gig, he performed with home-state pop star Adam Young in Owl City as well as with Chicago’s popular Christian rock group Superchick. “Having been born and raised in the Minneapolis area, Soul Asylum has been a significant part of my musical journey,” Sharbono said via Facebook. And being related to one of its members, he added, “made the pull of music all that much stronger for me.”

Sounds like a sweet kid. Make no mistake, though: Fans will eat him alive if this gig doesn’t go well.

The "Grave Dancers" show will be the second time in a month fans will get to hear a live rendition of a classic Twin Cities album at First Avenue, also including the tribute to the Replacements' "Pleased to Meet Me" on tap for this Friday. A reminder: The club is auctioning off some VIP tables and raising money off Friday's tribute for former Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap, who sadly is back in the hospital this week with pneumonia after finally getting to return home last week. Slim has spent most of the year in hospitals and care centers after suffering a severe stroke in February.

[Photo: Facebook]